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  2. What Are Katuns?
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  4. Cattle Breeding

Cattle Breeding

As it was already noted, the whole life in katuns is dedicated to caring for animals, and katuns as settlements were formed due to the need of farmers to provide pastures for their cattle. They usually have cows and sheep, and they are the key reason for moving to katuns. People in katuns will tell you that it is much easier to care for the cattle in the mountain than in the village. Today the pastures are not as crowded as they used to be so one does not need to worry about equal pasture rights, and the pastures are mostly state owned, so there is no need to herd the cows, you just let them go in the morning and they return on their own before night. Sheep, on the other hand, must be followed, because there is always the possibility that they will be attacked by the wolves and other wild animals. Herds of sheep are rarely as big as they used to be in past, there are only a few examples of families with herds of more than 100 sheep. Cows are kept mainly for milk, while the sheep are kept and for milk and for meat. In the past farmers used to sell wool as well, but there is no demand for it today, and very often you can see wool dumped in the mountain after the shearing. What is significant is that the quality of milk and meat on the mountain is far better than that from the intensive livestock production, although yields are lower. When cows and sheep graze on intact and absolutely unpolluted pastures, then this is virtually organic production, and consumers in the western world are prepared to pay significant amount of money for such high-quality and healthy products. That’s why lambs bred in katuns are export goods, and though we do not have large quantities, the quality we have is highly competitive.

Along with sheep and cows, farmers take other animals to katuns. Very often you will see pigs and piglets, but also chicken, and less often goats. It is a must to take horses and dogs to katuns as well. Horses are used to transport things from village to katun and vice versa, for getting firewood to katun, for transporting hay. There is a custom to let horses wander through the mountains freely once they are not needed. They then gather in herds on their own, and can often be seen bareback and allowed to enjoy the freedom and rich green pastures, and this scene so reminds of the herds of wild horses in areas where human foot has not yet set. Before the winter the owners pick them up and return them back to the villages. Dogs are generally Šarplaninac breed (in cynology known as Yugoslavian Shepherd Dog), but even if they are some other breed or mixed breed, it must be a dog that is taught to always be with the herd of sheep, and to inform the shepherd about the presence of foreigners or wild animals. They will seem dangerous and vicious, but if you approach them patiently and cautiously, most often you will realize that they are in fact good and gentle and it is only their job to look dangerous.